Category Archives: Live

Villagers – Liquid Room, 23/05/11

As an expectant crowd awaits, the frame of a tiny Irishman steps out onto the stage. A tentative wave, before the man launches a cappella into the soon to be released Cecelia and Her Selfhood. It’s a haunting start to an evening that would prove to be complex, confusing and, at times, breathtaking.

It’s a year to the day since Conor O’Brien’s Villagers released their Mercury-nominated album, and tonight the songs sound every bit as fresh this evening as they did last May. A man of few words, O’Brien’s interaction with his audience is limited:

“Everyone OK?”

No matter, though, as it’s his singing, whose intensity and sweetness seems to defy its undemonstrative delivery, which carries the set. O’Brien is joined by his pianist after a couple songs for a heavily (and brilliantly) re-worked Ship of Promises, and it’s this foray into familiar territory which seems to warm the crowd up.

It’s not until five songs in that the full band make an appearance, launching into the delicate The Meaning of the Ritual. An Antlers-esque crescendo feels a little milked, but it adds a visceral quality to an already cathartic song.

Becoming A Jackal was a collection of musically-simple, accessible songs but often unconventional songs, with O’Brien’s lyrical opacity providing ample for its listeners to think about. Live, Villagers seem unsure whether they’re a folk band or something heavier; a Mogwai style noise intro to I Saw the Dead is confusing, and a little unwelcome. And yet despite the distortion, O’Brien’s hypnotic voice breaks through to devastating effect.

The evening’s highlight is Grateful Song, which explores ambivalence in relationships: “I am grateful for the company / I am grateful to belong / and I am thankful for the misery”. It’s catchy, too. As the set draws to a close, O’Brien repeats a chorus of, “I might as well be anyone at all”. Thankfully, he’s not.


You can follow Neal Wallace on Twitter @nealjwallace


Haddow fest round-up part two

With the excitement of Haddow fest approaching, here are some more of Samizdat’s recommendations for who to check out from the 60-odd strong lineup.

The Rudiments

This band strip their rootsy music down to tinkling guitars and husky vocals, and their hooky, 60s influenced melodies could become an essential travel companion when their debut album comes out in 2011.

Miniature Dinosaurs

These guys win the Flying Burrito Brothers Memorial Prize for having the best name from the festival lineup, definitely. Yelping vocals and driving guitars; is it too soon for an early noughties indie revival?

Tango In The Attic

I don’t know if their name refers to the popular dance or the less popular carbonated beverage, but this is a lot of fun- angular indie ready for the dancefloor, and lucid lyrics which would do Scotland’s carousel of great songswriters proud.


Rabble rousing rock! ‘Poledancer’ has even got a bit where someone shouts ‘oi oi oi’ in the background, if that doesn’t make you want to check this shit out then I do not know what to say to you.


Oh I am partial to a bit of bluesy, Led Zep-influenced blues-rock, and Alfonzo provide this in spades. The singer sounds like he smokes twenty Marlboro Red a day (cowboy killers) and gargles with creosote. Good craic live, apparently.






Haddow fest preview

Alas, Edinburgh’s not a city known for its thriving music scene, with the bigger (and smaller) bands usually opting for Scotland’s second city when they make the trip north of the border. In fact, it’s a bloody nightmare trying to find a good gig to go to in the capital. But, now in its second year, Haddow fest is looking to change that.

Spread out across Edinburgh’s finest venues, Haddow fest is shaping up to be a worthy rival to Glasgow’s Stag & Dagger festival, with some of the biggest names on the British lined-up. Razorlight, The Undertones and Edinburgh favourites Broken Records are all set to play, along with some of Edinburgh’s and Scotland’s lesser known bands.

As part of Samizdat’s coverage, we’ll be interviewing hotly-tipped pop-rock troubadours Everyday at 10, along with the festival’s organiser Hamish Jolly (watch this space). Some 60 bands will be playing, so, in the meantime, here are a few of our recommendations:

Matt Norris & the Moon

Apart from having an ace name, Matt Norris & the Moon have got some frankly lovely songs in their repertoire, with Nick Drake-style guitar picking mixed with swelling strings and traditional folk melodies (and a trumpet). Norris himself sounds a bit like Marcus Mumford, but without the air of an heir to a large fortune, and without all those fucking hoe-downs.

Little Doses

Treading the Edinburgh music scape since 2006 (yeah, a cliché music metaphor there), Little Doses’ no frills garage rock sound is refreshingly lifted by the soulful crooning of singer Kirstin Ross. Their sound is simple, and satisfying to listen to, like David Attenborough but with more distortion.

Any Colour Black

You are not part of the answer / you are not part of the cure / you are everything that fucks me up”. Electro-pop, semi-aggressive, Ting Tings style, catchy-as-hell hooks, man/woman line-up Any Colour Black (Andy and Louise) have got the Skins party sound nailed, and that’s definitely a good thing.

Cancel the Astronauts

Ahhh, another party band. Great synthy-riffs that sound like they’re from the future, pounding drums and a lot of energy, Cancel the Astronauts just sound like a lot of fun. A lot of fun on a stage in Blade Runner.

White Heath

Recently signed to Electric Honey, former label of Belle & Sebastien (and Biffy, but I don’t care about them), White Heath offerings are a little slowed down, with Fargo-esque strings, dark, brooding vocals and strangely hypnotic trombone.

Sacre Noir

Threadbare, stripped-down trip-hop, with haunting vocals, sort of like early Massive Attack if Nigel Godrich had produced them. Great sounds.

Haddow fest takes place in Edinburgh on the 2nd and 3rd of April.

VIDEO – Last Lungs – Ingeland. The Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh. 16/2/11

Last Lungs (Deep Elm Records) performing Ingeland parts 1 to 3 at The Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh. 16.2.11
Filmed and edited by Neal Wallace

James Yorkston, Old St. Paul’s Church, 13/2/11

There’s something a wee bit strange about seeing a gig in a church. I grew up in a church-heavy town, and they make me think of boiled sweets and bibles and dusty Sunday afternoons. Seeing a folk gig in this kind of environment, I thought, might take the fun and passion out of the music and turn it into a bunch of old hymns.

I needn’t have worried, though. The atmosphere was convivial from the start; there was no bar, but the crowd wandered in clutching bottles of wine and beer, and as the hall filled out the atmosphere of gloomy churchiness disappeared.

The support act, The Waterson Family, leavened it even more by starting into a gorgeous cover of “Flight of the Pelican” by folk legend Lal Waterson. They played a solid set of sweet old-fashioned folk, enlivened with jazzy, music-hall vocals, but it all felt a bit disposable. Yorkston’s arrival on stage offered more substantial fare.

“This chary weather…these sun-locked days…”

Swoony, word-drunk songs about life and love are the norm on his albums, and he started with one of the best in the lovely Queen of Spain. Then he stopped and began to talk. Singer-songwriters are traditionally known as a dour, moody breed, but I’d have bought a ticket just to listen to James Yorkston chat. He’d have been a stand-up comedian in another life; he banters with the crowd, he reads extracts from his upcoming book, one involving an obscene anecdote about Adrian Crowley.

And of course the music is beautiful- he sings Shipwreckers to an audience absolutely hushed, as his shadow dances along the back wall. He sings Tortoise Regrets Hare a capella, almost spoken word, emphasizing the lyricism of his songwriting. And then he finishes and smiles and the crowd smile back. This is what’s most refreshing about James Yorkston- his songs are sad, but he doesn’t wallow- he knows the next laugh is always coming, and soon.


Fearghus Roulston